Broken Vs. Sprained Ankle: How to Tell the Difference and What To Do

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Have you recently injured your ankle and are trying to figure out if it is a sprain or a break? Both are serious issues that likely will require the input of a medical professional. Here is how you can get a sense of what it is before reaching out to an NYC foot doctor.

Your ankles are some of the most sensitive areas of your body. They help you move, play, and have fun, all while tasked with the job of keeping you stable and balanced. Unfortunately, ankle breaks and sprains are common injuries that need to be looked at when they occur. Disregarding these ailments can leave you at risk for the development of some serious secondary effects such as:

  • Torn ligaments
  • Chronic instability
  • Additional foot and ankle conditions
  • Broken foot bones
  • Increased likelihood of more breaks and sprains in the future

Keep reading to learn more about ankle fractures and sprains, how to determine which one you are dealing with, and what the treatment options are.

Our Award-Winning Podiatrists Can Diagnose and Rehabilitate Your Ankle Break or Sprain

At To Healthy Feet Podiatry, our skilled foot doctors at our 2 foot clinics in NYC can help you heal your ailing feet and ankles. If you are dealing with a sprain, fracture, or any other foot condition such as bunions, ingrown toenails, or turf toe, our team can develop a tailored therapy plan to get you walking tall as quickly as possible.

Interested in learning more about how we have become one of the best foot clinics in NYC?


Is My Ankle Broken or Sprained?

If your ankle is in pain, swollen, and difficult to put weight on, you may have an ankle sprain or break. But which one? While it may seem trivial to determine which one, as both will likely keep you off your feet for a few weeks or months, it is still essential to find out which one you have so that the proper treatment can be administered. They may share some very similar symptoms, but there are some differences that you can use to determine what your injury is. 

What is a Fracture?

An ankle fracture occurs when at least one of the three bones in your ankle - the tibia, fibula, or talus - are damaged or broken. Depending on the severity of your ankle break, your symptoms may vary. If your fracture is merely a small chip off of one of the bones, you may not even notice any difference! Alternatively, if you have broken multiple bones in your ankle, you may be in absolute agony and require immediate medical attention.

What is a Sprain?

While a broken ankle is characterized by damage to the bones, a sprained ankle is characterized by damage to the ankle ligaments. Your ankle ligaments are tough bands of muscle and tissue that hold your joints stable but allow them to move. If one of these ligaments are injured, it may be considered a mildly twisted ankle. However, if multiple ligaments are damaged or even torn, your sprain could be severe and require surgery.


Did I Sprain or Break My Ankle?

Determining between a sprain and a fracture without the input of an NYC foot doctor can be difficult. However, here are some tips you can use to discover it for yourself:

  • Did you hear a noise when the injury occurred? If so, it is more likely a break than a sprain.
  • Is your ankle deformed? If your ankle is directed at an odd angle, it is likely a broken ankle. Sprains tend to keep the ankle straight.
  • If you feel numbness in addition to the pain, it is more likely a fractured ankle.
  • If the pain is substantially worsening over time, it is more likely a break.

Oftentimes, the only way to know for sure what injury you have is to let a qualified podiatrist examine and x-ray the ankle to determine the cause of the pain. Regardless of what you believe it might be at home, if the pain caused by this injury is substantial, or you are unable to live your life as you normally would, give our NYC foot and ankle clinic a call today to schedule an appointment.


Once you have visited your Manhattan foot clinic and an accurate diagnosis has been completed, we can then move into properly treating your injury to get you back on your feet in no time! Depending on the diagnosis, your specific therapy will vary.

Treatments for Fractures

For ankle fractures, you should ensure that you receive treatment right away. This is because the ankle needs to be stabilized to avoid having the bones damage the surrounding muscle, tissue, and ligaments. Stabilization typically involves a cast, walking boot, and crutches. If it is determined that your ankle will not properly heal on its own, then surgical intervention may be required to realign the bones to promote adequate healing.

Treatments for Sprains

Alternatively, it is very rare for ankle sprains to require surgery; these typically only happen if ligaments and tissue are torn. Most ankle sprains can be treated relatively easily with the same three-step process: RICE, Restoration, and Reintroduction.

RICE is an acronym for the first phase, and it stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. These are the four main elements of the first part of healing your sprained ankle.

The restoration phase involves restoring your ankle's range of motion and movement through physical therapy, massage, and other methods that your foot doctor may recommend.

The final stage, reintroduction, is all about the gradual re-addition of sports, athletics, and regular movements. We advise doing this last step gradually and free of pain. Getting back into the activities you like to do too quickly can do more harm than good if the ankle is not ready for it.


Contact Us If You Have Sustained Any Type of Ankle Injury

If you think you have sprained, twisted, or broken your ankle, it is crucial to ensure that it is properly looked at by a professional foot doctor. We have two locations in Midtown and Downtown NYC that are available to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. 

To learn more about how we have been effectively treating ankle fractures and sprains for decades at our NYC foot clinic, call us at 917-398-3668 or fill in our online contact form below.



Can I walk on a fractured ankle?

Depending on the severity of your break, it might be possible to walk on a broken ankle. However, regardless of how severe it is, we do not recommend doing this. Walking on a broken ankle can cause further damage to your already injured ankle.

Can you move your toes if your ankle is broken?

This is a common myth that has circulated. Some people think that, if your ankle is broken, you will not be able to wiggle your toes. While this can sometimes be true, oftentimes, you may have a fractured ankle but can still wiggle your toes.

What happens if I leave my ankle sprain untreated?

If not allowed to rest and properly heal, a sprained ankle can turn into a severe chronic condition that can result in a drastically increased likelihood of repeated ankle sprains and chronic instability. This can result in long term difficulties walking and moving your foot.

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